Whenever I use my privilege to use the tool page to look at the recent activity of the last thirty days, I see it filled with questions and answers with more than ten comments. When looking at an answer or question, we want all of the relevant information in that body. So my next inclination is to go through the comments of those answers and questions. Many of those comments are not relevant or are conversational or already resolved. I'm tired of this state.

What can we do as a community to take flagging obsolete comments more seriously?

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    \$\begingroup\$ An alternative angle would be to get folks to clear out their own comments once obsolete. I'll just leave that thought and see if answers want to include or address that. Seems to fit in the same basket. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil Mod
    Mar 24, 2021 at 13:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: A chart of comments per user \$\endgroup\$ Mar 24, 2021 at 13:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ I will admit, my NLN comment flag rate dropped off when a bit when I got the Marshall badge. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 24, 2021 at 13:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related feature request at meta.se: Allow us to earn the Marshal badge multiple times \$\endgroup\$ Mar 24, 2021 at 13:58

1 Answer 1


Let me start with: I get you. I really do. I also flagged a lot of obsolete comments (and still remove such). So, I'm with you that obsolete comments should be cleaned out. But, they're a fairly low priority. Site design already does a good chuck to minimize the noise from comments, so removing comments is more like polish.

I'll try to offer some thoughts on the matter, hopefully in a useful order. Firstly, comments being removed is invisible. That means many might benefit from the resultant cleanliness, the absence is hard to consciously notice. And unlike most other moderation and curation (closures, edits, etc.) it being done isn't very noticeable to new users and its harder to pick up on the notion. (Because of how the Low Quality Posts queue works, the removal of answers is also much more visible.) That means teaching it (and encouraging it) to new users needs to be slightly more of a conscious effort.

But I think it's also beneficial to split up the issue, as already alluded in the comment above. Because cleaning up comments on 'live' posts, and cleaning out old comments are slightly different beasts. Clearing out resolved exchanges on posts which are new/active is important for new comments on the same to get full attention etc. Usually these exchanges have a cutoff (the post being edited and a comment with "Thanks, fixed/addressed" or "Does that edit address your concern?") which would a good point at which to encourage clearing out the comments. Appending a "please flag as NLN when seen and clear out comments" to such a comment would be great addition there. Similarly encouraging to flag resolved comments would be a good add when encouraging a user to incorporate their clarifying comments into the post.

Then, there's the comments that are old and obsolete. And I'll offer a thought from my own experience of it, clearing out old comments requires a specific mindset. Not a difficult or obscure one, but you need to read them with the specific question "does this need to be here, or can it just go away?" question in mind, which is different from the normal reader mindset of "does this solve my problem?" or "is this good additions?" in the case of curating users. I know I got used to the comment clearing mindset when retagging homebrew review questions and earning Marshall of flagging obsolete comments, but then I am shiny trinket motivated. I'm not sure there's really a good avenue for encouraging others to go through and flag old comments, unless they're looking for an additional (and fairly low key) way to contribute, or are looking for a way to earn Marshal or increase their flag quota (though I don't think anything other than comment hunting is gonna give you a problem with that).

  • \$\begingroup\$ What are good ways to encourage others? I know the stats from all comments flagged by the community in 2020, and I can confidently say that I reported a little less than about half of those. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 29, 2021 at 17:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ The more I read about various people's stances on comments, the more I think that maybe I should propose a meta to amend the comment privilege page. We could treat comments as a permanent forum-like discussion place and move on from deleting them at all (unless they are abusive). \$\endgroup\$ Apr 3, 2021 at 14:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ We can't actually change the privileged pages and it wouldn't really do anything anyway. If you think the community should have a chat about how we want to treat comments, that might be a viable discussion, but I don't (personally) think there's anything particularly problematic with the status quo. At least not in a way that's helped by changing some words. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil Mod
    Apr 3, 2021 at 16:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ I re-considered the idea. I think it is simply time for me to disengage from comments completely. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 3, 2021 at 16:55

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